NFC North: Menelik Watson

Mailbag: Packers and Montee Ball

April, 24, 2013
4/24/13
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video
Most of you weren't happy with my selection for the Green Bay Packers in Tuesday's #bloggermock draft. The truth: Neither was I.

Generally speaking, I'm convinced the Packers would like to upgrade their defensive line this offseason. But when the Packers' No. 26 overall pick arrived in our mock, seven defensive linemen had already been chosen -- four tackles and three ends. Safety sounds like a logical target, but at that point two of them had already been drafted and there is no consensus on the third-best at that position.

Offensive line is also possibility, and two of the targets we've seen in many mock drafts -- Syracuse's Justin Pugh and Florida State's Menelik Watson -- were available. But would the Packers make an offensive lineman their top choice for the third time in four years? Logical or not, that prospect gave me some pause.

My only opportunity in this exercise to trade down was to take the No. 35 overall pick from the Philadelphia Eagles in exchange for an additional fifth-rounder. I didn't see the value there. That left me staring at the possibility of selecting the fifth-best defensive tackle (based on the Packers' 3-4) in the draft. In the end, I chose Georgia defensive tackle Johnathan Jenkins, who I figured to be the best defensive lineman remaining.

My biggest mistake was admitting that the choice was a guess rather than the result of deep insight into facts that few people actually know. Perhaps you would prefer posing rather than honesty. Regardless, one position I never really considered was running back, prompting this question to the mailbag from Jacob of Caledonia, Mich.:
Is there a reason no one is talking about the Packers taking a chance on Montee Ball in the first round? They need a running back and have had no luck later in the draft so why not go for it? He was a proven winner and workhorse at Wisconsin and the fans would love to have him go from Wisconsin to Green Bay. I realize they need a DT as well but it seems like those are a lot easier to come by later in the draft.

As it turns out, the general consensus is that none of the running backs in this draft are certain first-round picks. That includes Alabama's Eddie Lacy, whose life story we posted Tuesday on the blog. Ball is well known by Packers fans after his college career, but our friends at Scouts Inc. have placed a third-round value on him.

That's not to say Ball wouldn't be a fit for the Packers. It just shouldn't be necessary to use a first-round pick to get him.

The Sport Science video, meanwhile, gives us a feel for why Jacob and others would love to see Ball with the Packers: His powerful lower body.

Earlier: Packers general manager Ted Thompson has drafted more running backs than you think.
What has the Green Bay Packers' recent run of success brought them? Among other things: Low-enough draft position to wind up with three college left tackles whose NFL futures either have or might lead to another position.

Sitting at No. 23 overall in 2009, the Packers drafted Iowa's Bryan Bulaga, now their right tackle. The '09 fifth round brought TCU's Marshall Newhouse, the starter for most of 2011 and all of 2012 but one whose future remains in doubt. In 2011, the Packers used the No. 32 overall pick on Mississippi State's Derek Sherrod, who worked at both guard and tackle before breaking his leg late that season. He is still recovering from that injury.

As we've discussed many times, the only way to find a surefire left tackle is to have a top-10 pick in the draft. The position is so difficult to fill that the league is spreading into two categories. One consists of teams with a left tackle and the other with someone who is trying to make it work at the position.

The Packers fall into the latter category with Newhouse, and so it's not totally surprising to see ESPN analyst Todd McShay assign them Florida State right tackle Menelik Watson with the No. 26 overall pick in his latest mock draft Insider. Selecting Watson would give the Packers the option of moving Bulaga to left tackle, an option coach Mike McCarthy has not ruled out in offseason interviews.

Speaking last month at the NFL owners meeting, McCarthy said he thought Newhouse graded out "OK" last season and added: "We need some improvement from the left side of our line."

The smoothest scenario would be better play from Newhouse, which would prevent moving Bulaga back to a position he hasn't played in four years. But the draft's top three left tackles -- Texas A&M's Luke Joeckel, Central Michigan's Eric Fisher and Oklahoma's Lane Johnson -- will be long gone by the time the Packers' No. 26 pick arrives.

Barring a trade, the 2013 draft might not offer the Packers a strong opportunity to elevate their situation at left tackle.

Updating Todd McShay mock 4.1

April, 5, 2013
4/05/13
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Thursday, we reviewed Mel Kiper Jr.'s fourth mock draft. Meanwhile, fellow ESPN analyst Todd McShay posted an update to his fourth mock. Two of the NFC North's five first-round picks changed in McShay 4.1, Insider which I will pass along below.

At No. 5 overall, McShay now has the Detroit Lions drafting Central Michigan left tackle Eric Fisher instead of BYU defensive end Ezekiel Ansah, who is already off the board on this update. My feelings haven't changed on this issue. It's rare when you get a chance to draft an elite left tackle, assuming that's what the Lions think Fisher is. If they don't, then they have another option with Riley Reiff.

Meanwhile, McShay has the Minnesota Vikings drafting Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te'o at No. 25 instead of Cal receiver Keenan Allen, who was off the board by No. 25 in this update. Both Allen and Te'o visited the Vikings' practice facility this week.

McShay had the same players going to the Chicago Bears (Notre Dame tight end Tyler Eifert) Green Bay Packers (Florida State tackle Menelik Watson) and Vikings at No. 23 (Florida State defensive end Bjoern Werner) as he did in his 4.0 mock.

Todd McShay's new two-round mock draft

March, 28, 2013
3/28/13
1:59
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ESPN's Todd McShay has unveiled his latest mock draft Insider, this one covering the first two rounds. Here's a quick peek at the players McShay has projected for the NFC North teams:

Detroit Lions

No. 5: Ezekiel Ansah, DE
No. 36: Blidi Wreh-Wilson, CB

Chicago Bears

No. 20: Tyler Eifert, TE
No. 50: Kevin Minter, LB

Minnesota Vikings

No. 23: Bjoern Werner, DE
No. 25: Keenan Allen, WR
NO. 52: Johnathan Hankins, DT

Green Bay Packers

No. 26: Menelik Watson, OT
No. 55: D.J. Swearinger, S

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NFC NORTH SCOREBOARD

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Monday, 9/8